COUNTY AG NEWS

Quality silage on dairy farms

Quality feed is important for production of milk on a farm. Cows are fed a total mixed ration (TMR) that is balanced according to the nutritional needs of the animal. Energy in the diet is especially important for dairy cattle for daily production of milk, support of digestive health, and for effective utilization of other nutrients in the diet. Dairy farms often utilize agricultural by-products to supplement nutrients in the cow’s diets. Examples include corn bran syrup, a by-product from ethanol production, and whey permeate, a cheese production by-product that can be used as energy sources. Most farms meet their forage needs by growing alfalfa and corn for silage.   The science behind mak-ing high quality silage for a dairy diet is a two-step process. First, there is an aerobic phase where bacteria that utilize oxygen and some of the carbohydrates from the plant material multiply, which produces carbon dioxide and water. Neither of these products helps to preserve the harvested forage, so reducing the length of this phase is desirable. This is the reason why forage is chopped into small pieces; it can be more readily packed together, which reduces the amount of oxygen present in the forage. This phase is the reason people see farmers continuing to chop forage through all hours of the day and night; the oxygen-loving bacteria start this process as soon as the plant material is cut. Packing down the forage also helps force oxygen out of the plant material. After packing is complete, plastic coverings are weighted down, often with tires, and placed on top of the forage to seal out additional oxygen.   Once the aerobi

  To view more, please log in or subscribe to the digital edition.